Sri Lanka military says 44 killed in latest battle

July 31, 2006 (AFP) – At least nine soldiers and 35 Tamil rebels were killed Monday in a major battle for control of a disputed waterway in northeastern Sri Lanka, defence officials said. Nine troopers, including an officer were killed in mortar bombs attacks while another 15 soldiers were wounded, officials said.

The defence ministry in a statement said that at least 35 members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were also killed in the “limited operation” aimed at taking control of a disputed irrigation canal.

“Troops retaliated with the assistance of the air force and artillery…,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Ground sources confirmed that over 35 Tigers (were) also killed during the retaliation.” There was no immediate reaction from the Tigers to the latest military claims of casualties, but the guerrillas said they were resisting the military onslaught, the bloodiest ground attack since a 2002 truce went into effect.

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